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April 2016

When Was the Hebrew Bible Written?

Earlier than previously thought, say Tel Aviv University researchers

Robin Ngo   •  04/15/2016

arad-ostraca

When was the Hebrew Bible written? Ostraca with Hebrew inscriptions excavated from the Iron Age fortress at Arad in Israel may provide clues, say researchers from Tel Aviv University.Photo: Michael Cordonsky, courtesy Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Was the Hebrew Bible written earlier than previously thought? That’s what a recent studypublished in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. The study was led by Tel Aviv University (TAU) doctoral students Shira Faigenbaum-Golovina, Arie Shausa and Barak Sober.

The TAU researchers analyzed multi-spectral images of 16 Hebrew inscriptions, which were written in ink on ostraca (broken pottery pieces),using a computer software program they developed. The ostraca, which date to 600 B.C.E., according to the researchers, were excavated from the Judahite fortress at Arad in southern Israel.

The researchers say they were able to identify at least six different handwriting styles on the inscriptions, which contained instructions for the movement of troops and lists of food expenses. A TAU press release notes that “the tone and nature of the commands precluded the role of professional scribes.”

“The results indicate that in this remote fort, literacy had spread throughout the military hierarchy, down to the quartermaster and probably even below that rank,” state Faigenbaum-Golovina, Shausa and Sober in their paper.

“Now our job is to extrapolate from Arad to a broader area,” explained TAU Professor of Archaeology Israel Finkelstein, who heads the research project, in the TAU press release. “Adding what we know about Arad to other forts and administrative localities across ancient Judah, we can estimate that many people could read and write during the last phase of the First Temple period. We assume that in a kingdom of some 100,000 people, at least several hundred were literate.”

So when was the Hebrew Bible written? What does literacy in the Iron Age have to do with it?

Scholars have debated whether the texts of the Hebrew Bible were written before 586 B.C.E.—when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, razed the First Temple and exiled the Jews—or later on, in the Persian or Hellenistic period. If literacy in Iron Age Judah was more widespread than previously thought, does this suggest that Hebrew Bible texts could have been written before the Babylonian conquest?

The Tel Aviv University researchers think so, based on their study of the ostraca from Arad.

Not quite, says epigrapher Christopher Rollston, Associate Professor of Northwest Semitic languages and literatures at the George Washington University. In a lengthy blog postanalyzing the TAU study, Rollston contends that there is not enough information from these ostraca to make estimates about the literacy of Iron Age Judah. Rollston points out that, according to a publication by Yohanan Aharoni, the original excavator at Arad, the 16 ostraca came from different strata dated across the seventh and early sixth centuries—and therefore do not all date to 600 B.C.E. Moreover, we cannot tell how many of these inscriptions were written at the Arad fortress and how many came from elsewhere.

“Rather than arguing on the basis of 16 ostraca (that ended up at Arad) that we have a ‘proliferation of literacy,’” Rollston says, “I would simply conclude that we have some readers and writers of inscriptions at Arad. That’s all we can say.”

Rollston notes that he and others have argued, however, that there is enough epigraphic evidence from ancient Israel to conclude that “already by 800 B.C.E. there was sufficient intellectual infrastructure, that is, well-trained scribes, able to produce sophisticated historical and literary texts.”

“Additional detailed, sophisticated and substantive scholarly arguments for the early dating of the Torah have been made by William Schniedewind, author of How the Bible Became a Book, and Seth Sanders, in The Invention of Hebrew,” observes Candida Moss, Professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, in The Daily Beast.

Were Hebrews Ever Slaves in Ancient Egypt? Yes

Ancient Egypt had intimate relations with Canaan, and most of the Semitic peoples migrating there would have been Canaanite. But not all.

Philippe Bohstrom Apr 14, 2016

The Ibscha Relief from the tomb of the high official Khnumhotep II, who served pharaohs Amenemhat II and Senusret II of the 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom, 20th century BCE - i.e., about 4,000 years ago, when Semites were migrating to ancient Egypt in search of a better life. The relief is believed to show Semites arriving in Egypt, possibly the Hyksos.

The Ibscha Relief from the tomb of Khnumhotep II, showing Semitic traders (possibly the Hyksos) coming to Egypt some 4,000 years ago.NebMaatRa, Wikimedia Commons

Every Passover, Jews retell the story about the Hebrews’ flight from slavery in Egypt and their miraculous escape across the Red Sea, giving birth to the nation of Israel. The colorful story has also been retold by Hollywood time and again, shaping the modern generation’s understanding of the Israelite bondage in Egypt.
But if ancient Egypt had slaves from the region known today as Israel, were they really “Israelites”?
There is no direct evidence that people worshipping Yahweh sojourned in ancient Egypt, let alone during the time the Exodus is believed to have happened. There is indirect evidence that at least some did. What’s for sure is that thousands of years ago, Egypt was crawling with Semitic-speaking peoples.
Canaanites ascendant
Throughout antiquity, Egypt was known as the breadbasket of the world. The annual flooding of the Nile produced rich harvests, and when famine hit neighboring lands, starving peoples often made their way to the fruitful soils of Egypt. The archaeological record clearly shows that at least some of these peoples were of Semitic origin, coming from Canaan specifically and the Levant in general.
In fact, the histories of both the Egyptian upper kingdom (ruled from Thebes in southern Egypt) and the lower kingdom (ruled from Avaris in the north), and Canaan were intimately tied together.

The relative positions of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of ancient Egypt, and Canaan.

The relative positions of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of ancient Egypt, and Canaan.Google maps, elaboration by Haaretz
Starting over 4,000 years ago, Semites began crossing the deserts from Palestine into Egypt. The tomb of the high priest Khnumhotep II of the 20th century BCE even shows a scene of Semitic traders bringing offerings to the dead (top picture).
Some of these Semites came to Egypt as traders and immigrants. Others were prisoners of war, and yet others were sold into slavery by their own people. A papyrus mentions a wealthy Egyptian lord whose 77 slaves included 48 of Semitic origin.
In fact, by the late Middle Kingdom era, around 3700 years ago, Canaanites had actually achieved absolute power, in the form of a line of Canaanite pharaohs ruling the Lower Kingdom, coexisting with the Egyptian-ruled Upper Kingdom. (These Canaanite pharaohs included the mysterious “Yaqub,” whose existence is attested by 27 scarabs found in Egypt, Canaan and Nubia and a famous one found at Shikmona, by Haifa.) The biblical tradition of the patriarch Jacob settling in Egypt could well derive from this time.

Timeline, ancient Egypt, from 1900 BCE to 1100 BCE, roughly.

Timeline, ancient Egypt, from 1900 BCE to 1100 BCE, roughly.Oscar Forss
The coming of the Hyksos
In time, the Canaanite leaders were themselves ousted by the Hyksos, a mysterious group who settled in Egypt some time before 1650 BCE, and who came to rule the Lower Kingdom from the city of Avaris. Controversy remains, but it is increasingly agreed that the Hyksos originated from northern Levant – Lebanon or Syria.
Some scholars believe the Semitic traders shown in the mural on Khnumhotep II’s tomb are actually Hyksos.
Under the Hyksos’ wing, the Canaanite population in the delta grew and waxed stronger, as shown by findings in ancient Avaris (Tell el-Dab’a). The Canaanite presence is attested by pottery that was Canaanite in form and chemically derived from Palestine. The dominant religious burial practices in Avaris at the time were also Canaanite.

Reconstructed Minoan wall fresco from Tell El-Dab'a, the archaeological site identified with the Hyksos capital of Avaris. This fresco is at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete.

Reconstructed Minoan wall fresco from Tell El-Dab’a, the archaeological site identified with the Hyksos capital of Avaris. Wikimedia Commons
Eventually, the Hyksos in their turn would be vanquished. After a 30-year blood feud, the kings of Thebe, led by Ahmose I (1539 BCE–1514 BCE) prevailed, capturing Avaris and uniting the Lower and Upper kingdoms into a single polity, the “New Kingdom”. The Hyksos were driven out of Egypt through the Sinai into southern Canaan.
The Roman-era Jewish historian Josephus for one identifies the Hyksos with the Israelites. He cites the 3rd-century Egyptian scribe and priest Manetho, who wrote that after their expulsion, the Hyksos wandered in the desert before establishing Jerusalem.
Some scholars suspect that Exodus is based on distant Semitic memories of the expulsion of the Hyksos. Others are dubious about Manethos’ history, which was penned centuries after the actual event.
Also, the Hyksos were expelled monarchs of Egypt, not slaves. Ultimately, they are not a very likely source for the Haggadah story. Yet another school thinks the Exodus happened hundreds of years later, during the time of the New Kingdom – and some suspect there were multiple expulsions and events that merged, over the millennia, into the Passover story.

Egyptian wall art showing Ahmose defeating the Hyksos.

Ancient Egyptian wall art showing Ahmose defeating the Hyksos.Wikimedia Commons
Enslaved by war
Ahmose not only expelled the Hyksos. He united ancient Egypt and began the process of expanding its empire to stretch over Canaan and Syria too.
Egyptian scribes of Ahmose I and Thutmoses III wrote boastfully of campaigns in the Levant, resulting in captured prisoners being enslaved in Egypt. Various descriptions perfectly match scenes in the Passover Haggadah.
The setting described in Exodus could be Egypt’s East Delta, where the Nile floods every year. The area has no source of stone, and mud-brick structures repeatedly “melted” back into the mud and silt. Even stone temples have hardly survived here. Physical evidence of slaves working there isn’t likely to have survived. But a leather scroll dating to the time of Ramesses II (1303 BCE-1213 BCE) describes a close account of brick-making apparently by enslaved prisoners of the wars in Canaan and Syria, which sounds very much like the biblical account. The scroll describes 40 taskmasters, each with a daily target of 2,000 bricks (see Exodus 5:6).
Other Egyptian papyruses (Anastasi III & IV) discuss using straws in mud bricks, as mentioned in Exodus 5:7: “You must not gather straw to give to the people to make bricks as formerly. Let themsleves go and gather straw for themselves”.

Making bricks in ancient Egypt: The tomb of vizier Rekhimire, ca. 1450 BCE, shows foreign slaves “making bricks for the workshop-storeplace of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes” and for a building ramp.

The tomb of vizier Rekhimire, ca. 1450 BCE, shows foreign slaves “making bricks for the workshop-storeplace of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes” and for a building ramp. Wikimedia Commons
The tomb of vizier Rekhmire, ca. 1450 BCE, famously shows foreign slaves “making bricks for the workshop-storeplace of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes” and for a building ramp. They are labeled “captures brought-off by His Majesty for work at the Temple of Amun”. Semites and Nubians are shown fetching and mixing mud and water, striking out bricks from molds, leaving them to dry and measuring their amount, under the watchful eyes of Egyptian overseers, each with a rod. The images bear out descriptions in Ex. 1:11-14; 5:1-21. (“They made their life bitter with hard labor, as they worked with clay mortar and bricks and in very form of slavery in the field” – Exodus 1:14a)
Also, the biblical description of how Hebrew slaves suffered under the lash is borne out by the Egyptian papyrus Bologna 1094, telling how two workers fled their taskmaster “because he beat them”. So it seems the biblical descriptions of Egyptian slavery are accurate.
Clues to Israelite presence in Egypt
Conclusively, Semitic slaves there were. However, critics argue there’s no archaeological evidence of a Semitic tribe worshiping Yahweh in Egypt.
Because of the muddy conditions of the East Delta, almost no papyri have survived – but those that did, may provide further clues in the search for the lost Israelites.
The papyrus Anastasi VI from around 3200 years ago describes how the Egyptian authorities allowed a group of Semitic nomads from Edom who worshiped Yahweh to pass the border-fortress in the region of Tjeku (Wadi Tumilat) and proceed with their livestock to the lakes of Pithom.
Shortly afterwards, the Israelites enter world history with the Merenptah stele, which bears the first mention of an entity called Israel in Canaan. It is robustly dated at is 1210 BCE, i.e., as of writing, 3226 years ago.

The Merneptah Stele, which states: "Israel is laid waste, its seed is no more."

The Merneptah Stele, which states: “Israel is laid waste, its seed is no more.” Not quite.Webscribe, Wikimedia Commons
These Yahweh worshippers were in ancient Egypt well after the Exodus is supposed to have happened. Members of the Yahweh cult may have existed there earlier, but there is no solid evidence for that. There are, however, indications.
According to the scribe Manetho, the founder of monotheism was Osarisph, who later adopted name Moses, and led his followers out of Egypt in Akhenaten’s reign. Akhenaten was the heretic Pharaoh who abolished polytheism and replaced it with monotheism, worshiping only the sun disc, Aten.In 1987, a team of French archaeologists discovered the tomb of a man named Aper-el or Aperia (his name is spelled both ways in Egyptian inscriptions), commander of the charioteers and vizier to Ahmenotep II and to his son Akhenaten.
The vizier’s name ending in -el could well be related to the Hebraic god Elohim; and the ending Aper-Ia could be indicative of Ya, short for Yahweh. This interpretation supports the argument that Hebrews were present in Egypt during the 18th dynasty starting 3600 years ago (1543-1292 BCE).
The famed British Egyptologist Sir Matthew Flinders Petrie holds the reverse view: that Akhenaten was the catalysis for the monotheistic views of the Hebrews, and that the Exodus happened in the 19th dynasty (1292-1189, around 3300 years ago).
So did the Exodus happen? Ask Hatshepsut
Ex. 12:37 says “600,000 men on foot, beside children” went out from Egypt. That extrapolates to around two million people making the exodus (extrapolated from Numbers 1:46) .
If around 2 million people left Egypt, when the entire population has been estimated at around 3 to 4.5 million, it would have been noticed, and would have resounded in Egyptian records.

Note that Herodotus claims that a million Persians invaded Greece in 480 BCE. The numbers were undoubtedly exaggerated, as in most ancient records. But nobody claims the invasion of Greece never happened.
That said, as the Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen points out, the Hebrew word for thousand, eleph, can mean different things depending upon context. It can even denote a group/clan or a leader/chief. Elsewhere in the bible, “eleph” could not possibly mean “a thousand”. For example: 1 Kings 20:30 mentions a wall falling in Aphek that killed 27,000 men. If we translate eleph as leader, the text more sensibly says that 27 officers were killed by the falling wall. Bv that logic, some scholars propose that the Exodus actually consisted of about 20,000 people.
The absence of evidence of a sojourn in the wilderness proves nothing. A Semitic group in flight wouldn’t have left direct evidence: They would not have built cities, built monuments or done anything but leave footprints in the desert sand.
Yet more support for the Haggadah may lie in an interesting poem copied onto a papyrus dating to the 13th century BCE (although original is believed to be much older), called the “Admonitions of Impuwer or the Lord of All”).
River of blood
It portrays a devastated Egypt haunted by plagues, droughts, violent uprisings – culminating in the escape of slaves with Egypt’s wealth. In short, the Impuwer papyrus seems to be telling the story of Exodus from the Egyptian point of view, from a river of blood to the devastation of the livestock to darkness.
Also, the Egyptians were not above altering historical records when the truth proved to be embarrassing or went against their political interests. It was not the praxis of the pharaohs to advertise their failures on temple walls for all to see. When Thutmose III came to power, he tried to obliterate the memory of his predecessor, Hatshepsut. Her inscriptions were erased, her obelisks surrounded by a wall, and her monuments were forgotten. Her name does not appear in later annals.
Moreover, records of administration in the east Delta seem entirely gone.
Generally, the biblical writers interpreted actual history, rather than invent it. The ancients knew that propaganda based on real events was more effective than fairy tales. A chronicler might record that King A conquered a city and King B was defeated. A royal scribe might claim that King B offended a God and therefore was punished by the God, who allowed King A to seize his city. To the ancients, both versions would be equally true.
However many Egyptologists or archaeologists dance on the head of a pin, each will have his own perspective on the Exodus story. None will have any evidence beyond contextual evidence to support their theories.
The Exodus could be a distant Semitic memory of the expulsion of Hyksos, or small-scale exoduses by different tribes and groups of Semitic origin during various periods. Or it could be a fable.
Psychologically, though, why would scribes invent a tale about such a humble and humiliating beginning such as slavery? Nobody but the Jews describe their community’s beginning in such lowly terms. Most people prefer to connect their leaders to heroic deeds or even to claim a direct lineage to Gods.
At the end of the day it the story of the Exodus is all matter of faith. This article does not aspire to prove the historicity of the Passover Haggadah, or that the Land of Israel was promised to slaves coming out of Egypt. It just proves that there were historical figures and events that could have inspired the Exodus account. So as we lift our cups and recite the “The coming out of Egypt,” let us think about the story that has captured the imagination for millennia and remember that sometimes, truth is stranger then fiction; and think back on Aper-el, a Hebrew slave who did not disappear in the mud along with the Yahweh-worshiping nomads who settled in Egypt.

The Exodus: Fact or Fiction?

Evidence of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt

merneptah-stele

Is the Biblical Exodus fact or fiction?This is a loaded question. Although Biblical scholars and archaeologists argue about various aspects of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, many of them agree that the Exodus occurred in some form or another.

The question “Did the Exodus happen” then becomes “Whendid the Exodus happen?” This is another heated question. Although there is much debate, most people settle into two camps: They argue for either a 15th-century B.C.E. or 13th-century B.C.E. date for Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.

The article “Exodus Evidence: An Egyptologist Looks at Biblical History” from the May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review1 wrestles with both of these questions—“Did the Exodus happen?” and “When did the Exodus happen?” In the article, evidence is presented that generally supports a 13th-century B.C.E. Exodus during the Ramesside Period, when Egypt’s 19th Dynasty ruled.

The article examines Egyptian texts, artifacts and archaeological sites, which demonstrate that the Bible recounts accurate memories from the 13th century B.C.E. For instance, the names of three places that appear in the Biblical account ofIsrael’s Exodus from Egypt correspond to Egyptian place names from the Ramesside Period (13th–11th centuries B.C.E.). The Bible recounts that, as slaves, the Israelites were forced to build the store-cities of Pithom and Ramses. After the ten plagues, the Israelites left Egypt and famously crossed the Yam Suph (translated Red Sea or Reed Sea), whose waters were miraculously parted for them. The Biblical names Pithom, Ramses and Yam Suph (Red Sea or Reed Sea) correspond to the Egyptian place names Pi-Ramesse, Pi-Atum and (Pa-)Tjuf. These three place names appear together in Egyptian texts only from the Ramesside Period. The name Pi-Ramesse went out of use by the beginning of Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period, which began around 1085 B.C.E., and does not reappear until much later.

These specific place names recorded in the Biblical text demonstrate that the memory of the Biblical authors for these traditions predates Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period. This supports a 13th-century Exodus during the Ramesside Period because it is only during the Ramesside Period that the place names Pi-Ramesse, Pi-Atum and (Pa-)Tjuf (Red Sea or Reed Sea) are all in use.

A worker’s house from western Thebes also seems to support a 13th-century Exodus. In the 1930s, archaeologists at the University of Chicago were excavating the mortuary Temple of Aya and Horemheb, the last two pharaohs of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, in western Thebes. The temple was first built by Aya in the 14th-century B.C.E., but Horemheb usurped and expanded the temple when he became pharaoh. (He ruled from the late 14th century through the early 13th century B.C.E.) Horemheb chiseled out every place where Aya’s name had been and replaced it with his own. Later—during the reign of Ramses IV (12th century B.C.E.)—the Temple of Aya and Horemheb was demolished.

During their excavations, the University of Chicago uncovered a house and part of another house belonging to the workers who were given the task of demolishing the temple. The plan of the complete house is the same as that of the four-room house characteristic of Israelite dwellings during the Iron Age. However, unlike the Israelite models that were usually constructed of stone, the Theban house was made of wattle and daub. It is significant that this house was built in Egypt at the same time that Israelites were constructing four-room houses in Canaan. The similarities between the two have caused some to speculate that the builders of the Theban house were either proto-Israelites or a group closely related to the Israelites.

izbet-sartah-house

A third piece of evidence for the Exodus is the Onomasticon Amenope. The Onomasticon Amenope is a list of categorized words from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period. Written in hieratic, the papyrus includes the Semitic place name b-r-k.t, which refers to the Lakes of Pithom. Even in Egyptian sources, the Semitic name for the Lakes of Pithom was used instead of the original Egyptian name. It is likely that a Semitic-speaking population lived in the region long enough that their name eventually supplanted the original.
Another compelling piece of evidence for the Exodus is found in the Biblical text itself. A history of enslavement is likely to be true. The article explains:

The storyline of the Exodus, of a people fleeing from a humiliating slavery, suggests elements that are historically credible. Normally, it is only tales of glory and victory that are preserved in narratives from one generation to the next. A history of being slaves is likely to bear elements of truth.

theban-house-plan

So, is the Biblical Exodus fact or fiction? Scholars and people of many faiths line up on either side of the equation, and some say both. Archaeological discoveries have verified that parts of the Biblical Exodus are historically accurate, but archaeology can’t tell us everything. Although archaeology can illuminate aspects of the past and bring parts of history to life, it has its limits.

It certainly is exciting when the archaeological record matches with the Biblical account—as with the examples described here. However, while this evidence certainly adds weight to the historical accuracy of elements of the Biblical account, it can’t be used to “prove” that every detail of the Exodus story in the Bible is true.

First Person: Banning Ba’al

As published in the March/April 2016 Biblical Archaeology Review

hershel-shanksWas the proper name Eshbaal—man of Ba’al—banned in Judah after King David’s time? A recent analysis suggests that it was.

Ba’al, meaning lord or master, was a common divine appellative in Canaan and neighboring areas during Biblical periods, most frequently referring to the storm god.

Very recently an inscription was uncovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa—a site already famous for a late 11th–10th-century B.C.E. inscription—about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. According to excavator Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University, the site is probably an imposing fortress erected by King David facing the Philistines. The dim five-line inscription in ink on a piece of pottery found there has been widely discussed and variously interpreted—with some claiming it as one of the oldest Hebrew texts ever found.a

Very recently two additional inscriptions—far less known—have been recovered at Qeiyafa. Only one has been deciphered so far. A team of scholars is continuing to work on the other one.

eshbaal

The deciphered one is short, but clear. It consists solely of a name: ’Ishba’al son of Beda‘.1The name ’Ishba’al or, more commonly, Eshbaal, is well known from the Bible. It means “man of Ba’al.” (The name Beda‘ appears for the first time in this inscription.)

Dating to about 1000 B.C.E., the inscription reads from right to left and consists of whole and partially preserved letters incised into the clay pot before firing. It is in so-called “Canaanite” script, the earliest alphabetic script in the world that wasprobably developed by Canaanites who were influenced by the writing system of the ancient Egyptians. The skilled hand that inscribed the letters reflects a trained artisan (and at least a partially literate society): The letters are large, clear, evenly sized and evenly spaced.

In the Bible various Ba’al names appear of people who lived in King David’s time or earlier (Jerubbaal [Judges 6:32], Meribbaal [1 Chronicles 9:40], etc.). But the Bible mentions no Ba’al names after this—neither Ba’al nor Eshbaal.

Ba’al names simply do not appear in the Bible after David’s time.

The archaeological situation is a bit, but not completely, different. We have more than a thousand seals and seal impressions (bullae) and hundreds of inscriptions from Israel and Judah from the post-David period (ninth–sixth centuries B.C.E.). The name Eshbaal is not to be found among these names. The situation with the name Ba’al is slightly different; it does occasionally appear in Israel—and of course in Philistia, Ammon and Phoenicia. But not in Judah!

It seems that Ba’al and Eshbaal were banned in David’s kingdom. One reason may have been that, at least officially, Judah was monotheistic. Thus, names constructed with a form of a foreign deity’s name—especially of Ba’al, who was Yahweh’s rival—would not have been considered kosher.

In addition, David’s predecessor and rival, King Saul, fathered a son named Eshbaal (1 Chronicles 8:332) who reigned for two years (2 Samuel 2:10)—another good reason to bar the name in David’s kingdom.

Notes:

a. Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil, “An Ending and a Beginning,” BAR, November/December 2013; Hershel Shanks, “Prize Find: Oldest Hebrew Inscription,” BAR, March/April 2010; Christopher A. Rollston, “What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription?” BAR, May/June 2012; Gerard Leval, “Ancient Inscription Refers to Birth of Israelite Monarchy,”BAR, May/June 2012.

1. Y[ ] | ʾšbʿl | ⌜bn⌝ | bdʿ

2. “Ishbosheth” in the account in 2 Samuel 2–4.

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